SEOUL, A three-way competition appears to be shaping up for South Korea's US$1.7 billion project to procure naval patrol aircraft, with the state procurement agency set to determine how to proceed with the bidding process in the coming weeks.

Two foreign defense firms -- Boeing of the United States and Sweden's Saab -- have already expressed their intentions to join the first major defense acquisition project since the Moon Jae-in government took office a year ago.

In addition, Europe's Airbus Defense and Space is also seen moving to throw down the gauntlet, with a plan to host a press conference here on Thursday to promote its C295MPA aircraft built based on its C295 military transport aircraft.

"We will welcome it should we get the opportunity to join the bidding process," a Airbus D and S official said on condition of anonymity.

"(C295MPA) will be able to provide the most suitable solution for Korea's (security) situation in light of the overall aspects, including operations capabilities," the official added.

Boeing is seeking to present its P-8 Poseidon, based on the 737-800ERX short-to-medium-range airliner, for Seoul's defense project, while Saab is pushing to present its Swordfish long-range, multi-role patrol aircraft.

Seoul's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) initially considered introducing Boeing's P-8A through a government-to-government "foreign military sale" program.

But the possibility of a multi-party competition has been floated, with Saab having reportedly put forward favorable contract terms to Seoul, such as the possible transfer of high-tech radar technology.

The DAPA plans to hold a defense project promotion committee meeting as early as later this month to decide whether to pick a single contractor or stage an open bidding process for the procurement project.

Source: Yonhap News Agency